OTG's All-Decade Team: Memphis Grizzlies Edition
With the past decade coming to a close, there's no better way to ring in the new decade than by reflecting on the past. Off The Glass is taking a look at each NBA team and selecting their All-Decade squad, which is defined by one guard, one forward, one center, a role player (someone not selected as an All-Star, or to an All-NBA team), and one wildcard.
Today, we are highlighting the Memphis Grizzlies!
Guard: Mike Conley
He’s like a Christmas tree with no decorations. Well, maybe just a garland? He was named to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team in 2013. I mean, you see what he did for the Grizz and how much he meant for them, and you know how highly he could have been decorated - but the West was just that guard-rich in the 2010s. He played 573 games with Memphis this decade and averaged 16.4 points, 6.1 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.5 triples on 37.3% shooting from downtown. He also chipped in 16.5 points, 6.7 assists and 1.4 steals in 56 playoff games. I don’t think he minds the lack of recognition, though, as he was always a consummate professional and great teammate. He’s a three-time winner of the NBA Sportsmanship Award and was named Teammate of the Year last season.
Forward: Zach Randolph
He’s less talked about from the Grit and Grind era than Conley and Marc Gasol, but despite his defensive shortcomings (at least statistically), his body allowed him to play quite physically, which had a great deal to do with their success as a team. In 470 games with Memphis this decade, he averaged 16.1 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. In 62 playoff games, he posted 17.1 points and 9.5 rebounds per game - outstanding numbers for a plodding forward with limited range. He was named an All-Star twice and made the All-NBA Third Team in 2011.
Center: Marc Gasol
In my opinion, he was the best player on the Memphis Grizzlies this decade, and an absolutely crucial piece of their success. He enabled the Grizzlies to play the Grit N' Grind style of basketball that they so evidently mastered. He definitely holds the most accolades of all past Grizzlies. He was named an All-Star three times, made the All-NBA First Team once, made the All-NBA Second Team once, All-Defensive Second team once and was crowned Defensive Player of the Year once as well. In 618 games with Memphis this decade, he averaged 15.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.5 blocks per game. In 59 playoff games, he posted 17.2 points, 8.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.7 blocks per game.
Role Player: Tony Allen
“The Grindfather” is a prime example of a player that can’t be defined by statistics. If you just look at his averages, you won’t even begin to see how valuable he was for the Grit N' Grind era. In 462 games with Memphis this decade, he only made 66 threes as a guard and averaged 8.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.7 steals per game. But his incomprehensible motor and knack for perimeter defense made him absolutely integral to the identity of the Grizzlies. I mean, no matter who you were, he was going to lock you down. He was named to the NBA All-Defensive First and Second Team three times each.
Wildcard: Drafting Ja Morant.
The Grit N' Grind era officially ended with the trades of Conley and Gasol; another era officially began with the drafting of Ja Morant to pair with Jaren Jackson Jr. It does not appear that the new era will consist of the same slow-it-down, defensively-oriented play characteristic of the franchise, but it does seem like they have plenty of room to develop a top-shelf, inside-out superstar pairing for the foreseeable future.
Team High: The 2011 Playoffs.
This was the series that put the Grizzlies on the map. They came into the series as the eight-seed, facing the San Antonio Spurs, a dynasty in the midst of their run and playing in sensational form. Memphis was set to be dealt with in short order, but instead, they shocked the league. The heavily-favoured Spurs were sent home in the first round as the Grizz earned their first playoff series victory behind 31 points from Randolph in Game 6.
Team Low: The Draft.
With as many first-round picks as the Grizz were able to amass and use this decade, they should probably be a little bit better if they didn’t whiff in almost every draft. Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and all but come on: in 2010 they took Xavier Henry over Avery Bradley, who would have fit their system perfectly. In 2012, they drafted Tony Wroten over Draymond Green. In 2014, they selected Jordan Adams over Clint Capela. In 2016, they took Wade Baldwin over Caris LeVert and Pascal Siakam. I can't even dive into the reasoning behind the selections; these draft choices were simply mind boggling.
Upcoming Decade Prediction: Building a Contender, One Piece At a Time.
The Grizzlies are in the early stages of a rebuild after trading Conley and Gasol and drafting Jackson Jr. and Morant. However, they have some solid young prospects around them in Dillon Brooks and Brandon Clarke, and high-quality veterans on the roster like Jonas Valanciunas and Jae Crowder. Memphis will struggle in the short-term, but the future is bright; if they can continue to land on draft picks, they’ll get back to being a competitive team sooner rather than later.